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NED Targets Venezuela
F or more than two years, Venezuelan government officials have been hurling accusations at the Bush administration charging that it was involved in the aborted April 2002 coup which overthrew, albeit for only a short time, the country’s democratically elected president, Hugo Chavez. Facing the possibility of being recalled, President Chavez recently said he had evidence proving that U.S. officials “met with rebel military officers [and] U.S. military officers acted in the coup.” Chavez also pointed out that “the U.S. ambassador was at the Presidential Palace after the coup to applaud the dictator [Pedro Carmona]. The government of the United States must answer before the world about the deaths that occurred here in April of 2002.”
The State Department’s Richard Boucher dismissed Chavez’s char- ges, saying that the accusations were meant to “to divert attention” from the referendum process currently underway in Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis.com reported. Boucher, however, acknowledged that the Bush administration is providing “funding to groups that promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Venezuela and around the globe.” Boucher claimed that the funds “are for the benefit of democracy, not to support any particular political faction.”
One of the recipients of U.S. taxpayer money is a Venezuelan company called Sumate, the organization that provided much of the logistical support for the signature collection process in the current recall campaign. Between September 2003 and September 2004, Sumate received more than $50,000 from the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy.
The “NED Report to the U.S. Dept. of State on Special Venezuela Funds” documents that the organization received a million dollars in April 2002 and, since June of that year, it awarded more than $800,000 to organizations working in Venezuela, according to VenezuelaFOIA.info. This non- profit website, sponsored by the Venezuela Solidarity Committee/National Venezuela Solidarity Network, found that among the organizations receiving funds were the Center for International Private Enterprise, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
NED is no stranger to Venezuelan politics. According to the New York Times , the organization “funneled more than $877,000 into Venezuela opposition groups in the weeks and months before the recently aborted coup attempt.” More than $150,000 went to “a Venezuelan labor union that led the opposition work stoppages and worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who led the coup.”
At its website, the National Endowment for Democracy modestly describes itself as a “private, nonprofit, grant-making organization created in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions around the world.” But the NED, over the years, has actively destabilized governments in Central America and Eastern Europe. According to William Blum’s book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower , the NED “played an important role in the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, funding key components of Oliver North’s shadowy Project Democracy network, which privatized U.S. foreign policy, waged war, ran arms and drugs, and engaged in other equally charming activities.” For years the NED supported the Cuban exile community in south Florida, contributing $250,000 between 1990 and 1992 to the right-wing Cuban-American National Foundation.
In 1997, NED president Carl Gershman told Congress that the group’s “four affiliated institutes, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI) …operate a host of programs that strengthen political parties, promote open markets, advocate the rights of workers, and many related activities.”
NED functions as a full-service infrastructure-building clearinghouse. It provides money, technical support, supplies, training programs, media know-how, public relations assistance, and state-of-the- art equipment to select political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, and other media. The organization’s aim is to destabilize progressive movements, particularly those with a socialist or democratic-socialist bent.
Chavez’s well-funded opposition also appears to be receiving the tacit stamp of approval from Henry Kissinger and his international consulting firm, Kissinger and Associates. In late January, while the national elections council was preparing to evaluate the authenticity of the over two million petition signatures handed in by the opposition, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was presenting an award to Venezuelan billionaire, Gustavo Cisneros, chair & CEO of the Cisneros Group of Companies. According to the Green Left Weekly , Cisneros has been “identified by Newsweek and Venezuelan publications as one of the protagonists and financiers of the April 11, 2002, coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.”
In a December 2003 press release announcing the upcoming awards ceremony, the IAEC described Cisneros as someone who “consistently sought to create an environment where business and government can work together in meaningful ways for the betterment of society.” It went on: “The council seeks to create a forum in which effective policy making is made by the public and private sectors working together. Cisneros’ life’s work parallels the council’s mission.”
According to the Green Left Weekly , however, Cisneros is “credited with being a driving force behind the December 2002 nationwide lock-out and sabotage of the oil industry, which drove the Venezuelan economy into the ground by causing a historical drop of 27 percent in the country’s GDP in the first trimester of 2003.” The U.S.-based NGO Global Strike for Women condemned the IAEC’s decision to give Cisneros the award, charging that he was a leader of the lock out “aimed at forcing President Chávez from office” and that “he played a similar role in the more recent oil lock out orchestrated by the CIA and aimed at paralyzing the whole country.”
Cisneros owns one of the largest privately held media, entertainment, technology, and consumer products organizations in the world. His holdings include Univision Communications, Inc., AOL Latin America, DIRECTV Latin America, Claxson Interactive Group, Venevisión (Venezuela’s largest television network), Los Leones del Caracas, Regional Brewing Company, Backus & Johnston Brewing Company, and Pueblo International, LLC.
It should be remembered that two days after the aborted coup, Kissinger partner Thomas “Mack” McLarty, vice chair of Kissinger McLarty Associates and former President Clinton’s top adviser on Latin America, penned an op-ed piece that issued a stern warning to Brazilian leftist Luiz Igacio Lula da Silva: “[W]hat happened in Venezuela could be perceived as a sign that messianic solutions, as opposed to genuine reform measures, lead to disaster. It bodes well for those in the region who advocate for open markets in the region. I don’t think this is a net positive for Lula’s candidacy.” Despite the warning, six months later Lula was overwhelmingly elected president of Brazil.
A s for the current referendum campaign, Sumate admitted “that there were instances where people signed the petition who were not supposed to or who did so incorrectly,” Gregory Wilpert recently reported. But the company maintains that although the invalid signatures number around 265,000, there are still some 3.2 million valid signatures, “which would be more than enough for a presidential recall referendum, which requires over 2.4 million signatures (20 percent of the registered electorate).”
In early March, the national elections council (CNE) said only 1.8 million signatures had been verified, which fell some 500,000 short of the needed number for the recall. According to BBC News, the opposition could “still reach” the target because the council will “publish lists of the disputed signatures and set up posts where people who find themselves on these listings can go and validate their entry.” The opposition however, declared it would “not accept the electoral commission’s plans for voters to confirm their signatures, complaining this was not included in the initial rules for the referendum.” According to Wilpert, international observers from the Carter Center, and the OAS will judge whether the CNE is doing an evenhanded job. If the CNE changes its ruling, Chavez could appeal it to the Supreme Court, thus delaying the recall election until after August which would then allow Chavez’s vice president to succeed him should the election be held and he is defeated.
In President Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address, he pledged to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy. When former Minnesota Republican Congressperson Vin Weber, a close ally of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, took over as chair of NED’s board in July 2001, he made it clear that the organization was interested in once again playing a more muscular role shaping and supporting U.S. foreign policy objectives. That’s exactly what it appears to be doing in Venezuela.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer regularly covering conservative movements.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.